Friday, August 31, 2007

Dino Photos

I blogged about this a while back, but just now found the pictures.

Here is the life sized T Rex coming out from behind the couch (his hindquarters would have been through the floor).
Here are the dinosaur tails with my lovely and gracious friend (the one who shared the great homeschooling books) modeling how to apply a dinosaur tail to your child:And for one last bit of dinosaur mayhem, we have Klenda modelling her dino model in front of her dino mural (note the cataclysmic meteor!):Hm. I think this was the time when Target had a clearance in their dollar section and all their dinosaur stuff was 25 cents (models, puzzles, workbooks, pens, posters and wind ups!) It was a great launching pad for a unit study!

The Jello Queen Returns!

I always underestimate how much we like jello and I always overestimate how much fuss and time it takes to make it.

This was one of 2 (3 layer) jello molds that we did. They only took 15 minutes to make (all 3 layers) with everyone helping, although they also chilled a few hours until dessert time.

Here's how:
1. We boiled 3 c. water in the electric kettle.
2. We sprayed the molds with cooking spray.
3. We took put 1 c. boiling water in each of 3 large (2 cups or more) measuring cups.
4. We added a packet of jello to each cup and each kid stirred with a whisk until the jello dissolved.
5. We added ice cubes to each cup until the volume reached 2 c. (kids still stirring).
Within 2 or 3 minutes, the jello started to thicken enough that we were trapping bubbles! (We like bubbles! If you don't this method may not be for you. You can control how bubbly the mixture gets by stirring more or less as it gets thicker).
6. We poured the layers one after another since they were thick enough to remain separate.
7. We tucked the molds into the fridge until time for dessert!

Incidentally, the fancy copper molds are only about 80 cents at thrift stores, so I've been gathering a collection of them and using them to "decorate" my kitchen. Cheap thrills!

We're Back in Action!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Is This the Land of the Living?

It' bad when the Emporer gets the stomach bug. It's worse when the Prime Minister gets it. When the Emporer, Prime Minister and Choclo get hit at the same time... I think I won't post a picture on this one!

Choclo is totally fine today. We are less so, but improving.

Just 2 kids to go!

4 Zoomlians + 1 Roll of Tape =

Choclo Reaches New Heights

Why, look at that, he's up almost as high as my heart rate!

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Difficult Day

Really, the day started yesterday evening when Zorg announced that he was going to throw up. And did. This morning I wasn't feeling so great myself. Clearly a movie day was called for. Alas, Oob does not believe in watching movies. In fact, he did not believe that I should sit down. I don't know what the problem was, but he needed to be held while I was upright. Choclo discovered mysterious powers of levitation (I'll have to download the picture before I can post about it). Leena remembered the secret door between the boy's room and the girl's room (it was hidden under all the junk in the closet) which allowed her to enter Zorg's quarantined bastion of movie madness. I discovered that I could read my new home school book (see post below) while walking around with Oob. May God richly reward my good friend Tracy for taking Mxyl and Klenda swimming for several hours!!

At one point, Klenda said sympathetically,"Mom, I think you are having a difficult day."

I answered, "Well, yes. But the difficult days now are still better than the great days without you guys." It's true!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Leaving the Watery Depths

In style!


I am Klenda of the planet Zoom. We have many pets on Zoom, including unicorns. That's why I like horses here on Earth.

I like this planet. On Zoom, we grow much faster then normal humans. I'm 3, 153, 600,005 years old, but, on Earth, I look like I'm only 8.

On Zoom we look like big floating balls with hair, eyes and a nose. If you come to Zoom, you'll look like Zoomlians too. It's fun! I love being Zoomlian!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


The arboretum plans got rained out, but my friend Michelle and I sat around and talked home school philosophy. We agreed that why you home school dictates how you home school. You need to know why you want/feel called to do it. If you think the only thing wrong with school is the political bias, you'll probably "school at home." If you think the whole concept of school crushes the child's natural aptitude for learning, you'll probably "unschool." Unless you firmly believe in the school model (sticking to a professionally prepared curriculum teaches discipline!) You need to know what your style of teaching is and what your kids styles of learning are. What do you want your kids to be like (generally) when you are done? How much structure do you and/or your kids need to be happy?

I think Michelle and I are both information geeks (except she has a much better fashion sense!), so we could talk all day about multiple intelligences and educational theories. She showed me a book full of charts to help you think through all these issues. It was called 100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing The Right Curriculum And Approach For Your Child's Learning Style.


Metablogition: when you blog about blogging. Does this qualify?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy First Day of No School!

To celebrate, we: baked a cake, made a spaceship, toured the neighborhood pointing out interesting features of Earth for visiting Zoomlians (including many discarded solar collectors from certain large earth creatures), made fudge, played board games, watched Carmen Sandiego, went to Mass (where Choclo entertained the, er, masses by sprinting up the center aisle during the final prayers), made a massive mess with foam paint, dawdled diligently, told knock-knock jokes, read the beginning of A Child's History of the World (while the Zoomlians drew pictures) and did the laundry. Among other fun things. Quite a happy day.

Made me think: why restrain ourselves to a single day? Tomorrow we're going to the Arboretum with some like minded friends for fun and a picnic. In the afternoon, we are hoping to get to the rest of the things the Zoomlians wanted to do today!

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Zorg is going to be 7 in just a few more weeks. It is true that he looks like a boy, but I wonder...

He is crazy about cats!

He dislikes books in which cats are cast as the enemies against cute smaller animals because this is an insult to the honor of cats!

He likes to run and chase and pounce!

He likes to curl up on a nest of blankets in the sun and snooze!

He likes laps and back rubs....

Boy or cat? Probably a Zoomlian!

Favorite Picture Books

My better half typed the list here, which I am shamelessly copying and pasting!
If you have favorites, leave them in the comments!

Angel in the Waters, Doman & Hatke: the most pro-life children's book of all time.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, Cronin & Lewin: pure silliness. Sequels abound, too.
More Bugs in Boxes, Carter: how they did some of these pop-ups, I'll never know. Carter's other buggy pop-up books are also great.
Small Acts of Kindness, Vollbracht & Fay: a book about providence and the effects of free will.
Dinosaur Roar!, Stickland & Stickland: a favorite from ages 2-7, a remarkably wide range.
Night House, Bright House, Wellington: very creative rhymes and highly detailed, if cartoonish, pictures.
Jabberwocky, Carroll & Base: it's hard to beat Lewis Carroll for read-aloud, and Graeme Base is one of our favorite children's illustrators.
Animalia, Base: insanely (and beautifully) detailed, it's the only alphabet book I know of that can take 15-30 minutes to read (depending on attention span).
No Matter What, Gliori: this book about unconditional love helped Klenda through a rough spat of tantrums a few years back, and I'll always be grateful to Debi Gliori for that.
Mouse's Magic Paints: A First Book of Colors, Healey & Chamberlain: as creative as Harold and the Purple Crayon, only with a more solid plot and cast of characters.
Mouse Paint, Walsh: what is it about mice and colors?
When the Rooster Crowed, Lillie & Parker: one of the best farm animal books out there, it often gets read five times per sitting.
Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell: a very silly lift-a-flap book.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Carle: a classic. Personally, I don't get the appeal, but all five kids have loved it, so there must be something there.
Bears in the Night, Berenstain & Berenstain: I don't think much of the Berenstains' books for older kids, but their "Bright and Early" books make for wonderful read-alouds. Another one that can easily be read five times at a sitting.
Bears on Wheels, Berenstain & Berenstain: ditto.
Gorgeous!, Castle & Shields: a baby zebra wanders off from the hers and has an adventure. Favorite quote: "Little Zeb trotted off behind Big Zeb on his brand-new, clippy-cloppy, springy-zingy legs."
Too Much Talk, Medearis & Vitale: a little disturbing, but excellent, this adaptation of an African folk tale has a theme that will resonate with children who are tired of adults not believing them.
The Princess and the Kiss, Bishop & McDaniels: an allegory on purity for girls, but most boys like it too.
The Squire and the Scroll, Bishop & McDaniels: an allegory on purity for boys, but most girls like it too.
Day Dreams: An Imagination Book, Adams: A very clever hide-and-reveal die-cut book.
William and the Magic Ring: A Shadow Casting Bedtime Story, Robinson: unfortunately expensive, but if you can find it used, it's worth a look. (New, it comes with a flashlight.) You provide the blank wall for this shadow-casting story. If you're creative, you can even design your own special effects by moving the flashlight closer or farther away from the book, moving the book (and therefore the shadows) in a circle, etc.
In the Forest, Ets: a classic read-aloud, full of imagination. The most peaceful book Choclo enjoys.
A Day on the Farm, Hulick & Miller: my favorite of the "Little Golden Book" series. Not big on laughs, but the kids love it every time.
The Little Book, Horvath & Wilkin: my second-favorite "Little Golden Book," the clever rhymes and lovely pictures entrance kids ages 2-4.
Caps for Sale, Slobodkina: another classic. Depending on how much animation you read it with, kids can be rolling on the floor.
Pickle Things, Marc Brown: out of print for years, I find this crazy book far superior to his work with "Arthur."
Henry's Awful Mistake, Quackenbush: also out of print, but easier to get used copies of. A lesson in keeping your temper.
Sheep in a Jeep, Shaw & Apple: a quick, rhyming read about some very silly sheep. Sequels abound here, too.
Is It Time?, Janovitz: a book about a very cute wolf cub as he takes his bath, brushes his teeth, etc. Rhyming.
A Pie Went By, Dunn & Santoro: King Bing wants Queen Bee to marry him, so he bakes her a cherry pie and carries it on his head. The animals conspire to get him to fall down so that they can eat it. Very silly.
God Bless the Gargoyles, Pilkey: this book about God's unconditional love for us holds unusual emotional resonance.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Favorite Educational Websites Round 1

I realize I've been referring to these and haven't introduced them. We do use a lot of web based resources, some free, some not.

Enchanted Learning:
One of my favorites! Worksheets, crafts, projects and web based fun educational stuff for preschool through older elementary. Great for themes. You could easily home school just from this site for preschool through 3rd or 4th grade. Some stuff is free, but it is worth the $20 a year to have access to the easier printing/no ads/better sizes.

Learning Pages: This is free but you have to sign up (and they've never sent me spam). The ultimate in themes for Pre K through grade 3, arranged by topic, grade, and class (language arts, math and science). Extras include fact files, lesson plans, murals and cut outs. They also offer printable books, monthly themed worksheets and more. I think they actually have other stuff if you pay them money, but I've never tried it.

Brain Pop: Great funny highly educational movies on any topic you can imagine with other educational bonuses (quizzes, work sheets, and activities). Very expensive! I think it's something like $75 a year, possibly more, but you can get a 14 day free trial to see if it is worth it for you. The one caveat I have for this site is that I can't let my younger kids loose on it. Some of the topics (like reproduction) are topics I want to introduce to them, some are just aimed at older kids (like AIDS), and some of the novels (like Frankenstein) are books I want them to read before they see a discussion of them. I also have found their discussion of controversial topics to be fairly left leaning, their movie on stem cells was disingenuous at best (some people object to using embryonic stem cells because they could become embryos?). Still worth it to me with supervision.

Dino Times

I have to find the pictures of this, but the last time we went on a dinosaur binge we cut out a life size T Rex (just the upper part) and put him coming out over the couch. I figured out later that we could have done the whole thing going down the stairs, but there really was something special about having the T Rex looming over you on the couch. I got the idea from Learning Page where you can print out (on many sheets of paper) a life sized T Rex head. This was only 2 D, but lots of fun! I bet it could be done 3D (or at least bas relief) coming out of the wall if you stuffed paper behind it.

Another fun thing (again with the big roll of paper!) was to have the kids draw their favorite dinosaur tail on a double thickness of paper, color it and cut it out. Then you can staple the 2 sides together along the long sides (leave it open where the tail meets the body) and use the paper scraps to stuff the tail to get make it 3D and stiff enough to stick out properly. Finally, we used packing tape to tape the tail to the kid (running it around their middle and folding the last bit of tape so you have an easy way to get it off). The kids (I had a friend's family over) all went nuts!!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Something Fishy

Something fishy around here. Honestly, I don't have Christmas lights up year round, just when we have a baby! You can see Klenda's clown fish, Zorg's Puffer fish and Mxzl's turtle here along with some seaweed. More fish are arriving daily. I guess it's as close as we get to "school"-at-home!

Besides our favorite sea creatures, we've been interested in the different animals found at different depths. Hence our stairwell. The anglerfish are at the bottom and the surface dwellers are at the top. I love the orcas! Klenda made the adult and Zorg made the baby.Continuing the watery theme, we did a little play illustrating the water cycle. I haven't done a play before, but it was fun! I found it (and tons of other resources) on Enchanted Learning. But, of course, no home school ocean educational expedition would be complete without edible sea slugs (and other denizens of the deep sculpted free form from cookie dough).
Still, my favorite discovery today was that Brain Pop has a new movie on Giant Squids!!!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


This is Leena. One day she informed me that she was Queen of the Squirrels.
I asked, "Queen of the Squirrels?"
She replied, "Mmhm. See my dance?" She danced around on her tippy toes singing:

I'm Queeeeen....of the Squirrels.
I'm Queeeeen....of the Squirrels.
I'm Queen, Queen, Queen, Queeeeen....of the Squirrels!

She is 5 and about to celebrate her First Day of No School.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Culling the Herd

No, the herd is not the kids! The herd is the crowd of nearly 4000 books in my house. Some mind their manners in the library, some jostle in the assorted book shelves in other rooms, but many perch insolently from any horizontal surface they can find, daring us to find more shelf space.

It was time to thin the herd.

You can't toss any book that any child, adult or near relation ever loved. You can't get rid of a book that might be hard to find again if, say, your 6th child develops a fascination with wombats. You can toss a book that was loved to death, but only after ordering a replacement... Really it's a ticklish job. Home schooling makes it all worse: you can't toss a book of superior educational value. Did I mention that we buy library tape in bulk?

This messy business took most of the day, but I think we may find ourselves some 300 books or so leaner. On the other hand, the library looks like a herd of cattle stampeded through it.

We ought to be embarrassed by our, er, lack of restraint when it comes to books, but really I had no shame... until I realized that we were taking out 1000 items a year from our public library since we didn't really have enough books of our own...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ice Cream Day!

It has been too hot. By "too hot" I mean that at 7 am it's 84 degrees but feels like 90 because of the swamp like humidity. Days of triple digits... what to do? Haul out the little inflatable water park? Great, but you can only spend so much time there. How about declaring it to be Ice Cream Day?

Worked for us! We downloaded bunches of ice cream themed work sheets from Enchanted Learning: Venn diagrams, word searches, fractions, etc. We made fabulous construction paper ice cream cones. Zorg made a dish of paper ice cream that stretched nearly from floor to ceiling complete with sprinkles, syrups and a cherry on top. And of course we made actual ice cream: chocolate chocolate chip and strawberry blackberry. Plenty of science there!

One thing to look at: How does the ice cream get colder than the melting ice? Every time matter changes phases it either takes on or gives off energy. Another way of looking at that is to say that it takes energy for matter to change phase. You can lower the temperature of water to 32 degrees without freezing it (ice water is 32 degrees). You need to remove more heat (energy) to change the 32 degree water into ice (although the ice can still be 32 degrees, the heat/energy removed is in the phase change not the temperature). The reverse is also true: when you melt the ice with salt (around the ice cream freezer) the phase change absorbs energy and the temperature of the salty water drops (it won't refreeze because of the presence of the salt). Where does it get the energy from? From the heat in the ice cream makings. The heat is absorbed by the salt/ice reaction, the temperature drops and your ice cream freezes!

If your kids are too young to get that, you can do a fun experiment seeing whether ice cream melts faster in a plastic or metal spoon. Good chance to talk about specific heat and why some things feel colder than others at room temperature.

Ahh, sweet, slurpable science!!!!!

Long Time No Blog...

Sorry about the lack of entries. We just finished a lovely visit with my niece, Burger, and things should start settling back to normal (boo hoo) soon.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

How Choclo Got his Name

This is Choclo. He is our fifth 2 year old. When he was about 7 months old and crawling around, I found him in the living room with lots of dirt on his face. Now, I probably should vacuum more, but there isn't usually that much dirt in the living room. Looking closer, I was horrified to discover that Leena, then 3, had been feeding Choclo bits of Oreos! He'd only been on solid food for a month! We were just starting vegetables!! No chocolate til he's a year old!!!! Oreos are choking hazards!!!!! He was permanently ruined and would want nothing but chocolate!!!!!

Well, he didn't choke and now he wants trucks, too. Did I mention that one of his first words was chocolate?

And he does eat vegetables. If you dip them in chocolate.

Did you notice he's the only one of the six with brown eyes?

Here is his face when clean:

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Oob and the Baby Goofies

This is Oob. We call him Oob because it's the first thing he said when I asked him what I should call him online. He is only 3 months old, but he gives me the worst case of the baby goofies! If he's out of my sight for a few minutes, upon his return I can't help but notice how cute he is. I don't mean "Gee isn't he cute." I mean, "Gawrsh, isn't he just the cutest thing you've ever seen!!!??!!" And then he smiles!

That puddle with the goofy smile would be me...

I have uncontrolled urges to talk goofy talk in a goofy sing song voice which makes him smile more! I have a hard time holding him without plastering him with goofy kisses all over his head.

A bad, bad case of the baby goofies. I gotta go. There are Oob toes to nibble.

We're Back!

Read all about our vacation to the wilds of NJ on my better half's blog!